This CEO Is Building the ‘Yahoo for Men’

Looking past big city interests to reach the average Joe

Headshot of James Cooper


Photo: Alfred Maskeroni


Who James Heckman

New gig CEO, founder and director of Scout

Old gig Head of global media strategy at Yahoo

Age 49

What’s your mission statement for Scout?

I don’t feel it’s an overreach to say we’re building the Yahoo for men. When I was at Yahoo, I discovered that the big-scale male demographic sites, for the most part, were not befitting of major premium brands because men tend to gravitate to the lowest common denominator when it comes to concepts. So, looking at the media and content for women, there’s lots of high-quality premium safe content for brands to associate with. But for men, there’s a only handful at scale. That’s where we want to play.

Who is the Scout audience?

We’re not pursuing A-market Silicon Valley, New York hipster types, but rather men where America is. We have a hyper-focus on college football, college basketball, NFL, hunting— nobody will do hunting—we’re doing hunting, fishing, military, Nascar, golf. Think about it. The NFL doesn’t even exist in Los Angeles. College sports don’t exist in New York, but it exists throughout the Midwest, the Steel Belt and the South. So, we’re focusing on where most of the American men are and addressing their passions.

How do you stay on top of covering all these really intense passion points for guys?

We’re pulling together experience, relationship and actual assets that would not be available to, say, a young startup that may have to buy traffic or spend an incredible amount of money to try to pull something like this off. Scout is an aggregation of institutions within these passion points. And we are funded by people who either founded them or have worked as journalists with these institutions like the NFL and college programs for decades.

You’ve got a lot of verticals. How are you packaging them for your brand partners?

Scout offers major media quality and presentation, but niche targeting. Essentially hundreds of sites gathered into easy-to-navigate channels on one technical platform.

What do you see as under-tapped opportunities to reach men?

I don’t think anyone since IGN has properly addressed the gamer industry. I’m not saying that people aren’t making money on it, but I don’t think that it’s been presented in a way that is good enough to replace television advertising. I think that that’s an interesting space. And it’s no secret we’re pursuing fantasy sports content. I don’t think that there’s a great owner of that space at this point.

How are you mining social to amplify Scout?

Our whole network takes advantage of social, but we think that we are in a unique and advantaged position because our company is based on the niche. Alabama football, the Giants, fishing, these are all social institutions in which consumers seek to find each other. If we have content that’s proprietary, which we do, original, which all of it is, and in mass volume for the particular niche, all we need to do is open up a place for them to congregate.

What do you think guys are really sick of right now in their media diet?

I’d say lack of content they can relate to. The outdoors, for example, is a big deal to this audience yet it’s completely ignored by the San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York media industry because they don’t understand it. Hunting and fishing, according to Forrester, hover around $50 billion each in commerce. Passive participation like viewing other people doing things is not as interesting as what men actually want to do, which is to combine their interests with physical participation.

@jcoopernyc James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.